DC church leaders demand action and funding for rising water bills, march into council meeting

Several of leaders of DC churches marched into a DC council meeting on Tuesday. And while protestors are usually ordered to leave, they were allowed to stay this time.

Churches say they need more money from the city to pay for higher water bills.

Some of the best-known church leaders in the city took over the budget hearing on Tuesday. Shouting, praying, singing, until DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson adjourned the official hearing, bending to the protestors' demands.

Mendelson, who is running for re-election, halted the meeting and took the influential clergy members into a side room to work something out.

FOX 5 was not allowed into that meeting.

The clergy told DC leaders 11 churches have closed because they couldn't afford to pay their water bills. The District set aside $6 million to help, but clergy want $40 million.

DC Water was forced to hike water rates to pay for federally mandated sewage tunnels currently under construction. All in the city have been impacted.

"We have been in discussions with politicians and it seemed to have gone nowhere very fast. We felt it was something that needed to take place and be drastic and that would get folks attention," said DC pastor Graylan Hagler.

Following that private meeting, religious leaders emerged hopeful. A council roundtable was scheduled on the issue for next week.

"It is a start, but we are going to keep working because we must press forward to make something happen that will positively affect the churches and residents of the city," said Pastor Willie Wilson.

This is the second time in recent weeks a religious leader has interrupted a DC council gathering. A few weeks ago, a rabbi voiced his concerns over anti-Semitic words spoken outside the Wilson Building.

Another big issue that changed on Tuesday, the Uber/Lyft tax. The mayor has proposed raising the rate from 1 percent to 4.75 percent, looking to use the funds to help support Metro. But it looks like city leaders, including the Chairman of the Council says he wants the rideshare tax raised more -- to 6 percent. If approved, the tax would affect the cost of taking an Uber or Lyft in DC.

The budget went through the first-round vote on Tuesday and will go to final approval in a couple of weeks.

But what he took out of the proposal is a move to raise the hotel tax, which only usually affects visitors, not people who live in the area.